ROME — Pope Francis demanded a more just distribution of the world's bounty for the poor and hungry Thursday, telling a U.N. conference on nutrition that access to food is a basic human right that shouldn't be subject to market speculation and quests for profit.
"We ask for dignity, not for charity," Francis told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
His speech came a day after more than 170 countries at the conference adopted new voluntary guidelines to prevent malnutrition, promote healthy diets and reduce levels of obesity around the globe.
Currently, one-third of the world's population suffers from nutritional deficiencies of the sort that caused 45 percent of all child deaths in 2013, according to U.N. data. At the same time, 42 million children under age 5 are overweight and some 500 million adults were obese in 2010.
Francis recalled that when St. John Paul II addressed the first U.N. conference on nutrition in 1992, he warned against the risk of the "'paradox of plenty,' in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes."
Francis said unfortunately, that paradox remains today.
Francis has frequently spoken about the plight of the poor and hungry, denouncing the "scourge of hunger" during his Easter address this year and lamenting that the world's needy could be fed with all the food that is wasted.
The U.N. estimates that a third of all the food that is produced is lost to waste and spoilage.
"It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by 'market priorities,' the 'primacy of profit,' which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature," Francis said.
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